It has taken me a long time to get around to this post. Yes, I've been busy but that's not what's held things up. It is important to me to get it right so I have done much research and prayed much and thought long. And I've worried. Fearful that I'll not get it right or offend someone or miss the chance to offer genuine help. So I've put it off. But the post keeps writing itself in my head. It's time to get it on the blog. And to move beyond my own fear! I pray that it will bring hope and help...that it will be Truth - and Grace...that even just one person might be encouraged.
Panic attacks do not have to control you. No one needs to be debilitated by fear or anxiety. That is the total and simple truth.
Now, how to live in that truth? Here are the suggestions I have for you to overcome and prevent panic attacks. (Some of what I share has been mentioned in the previous posts but it bears repeating and expounding)
1. Get a physical. While the root of panic attacks is clearly NOT physiological, the symptoms are and it is helpful to address issues such as thyroid imbalance that could be exacerbating the problem.
However, remember that the cause is not physical. And the solution is not either. Try to avoid the use of medication as a solution. This can actually become a hindrance in being set free from fear but if you truly cannot cope, then use medicine as a temporary support to get you to the place where you can deal with the real issues.
2. Believe that God wants to heal you of this. Far too many people are deceived into thinking they have to live like this. I cannot overemphasize how wrong that is! Fear is never the plan for His children. Being cured of cancer or becoming debt free or looking like a model may not always be His plan for us but we can be confident that living in fear is NOT what He purposes for us. How can I be so sure of that? Because He commands us over and over and over "Do not fear". Nearly 100 times!! So if He commands us not to fear, then fear clearly is not right for us. We don't have to "settle" for it or think it is our "normal" and just learn to live with it. Emphatically NO! Our responsibility is to believe Him, to take Him at His Word. (See Mark 9:20-24) Read my earlier posts about this.http://livingletters4.blogspot.com/search/label/Panic%20Attacks God wields incomparable power in the lives of those of us who believe Him. Ephesians 1:18-20 says having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 2 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
3. Be willing to be healed. As preposterous as it sounds, we are not always willing for God to heal us! Perhaps we fear wholeness more than what holds us captive. There is comfort in familiarity, even that which ensnares us. And, as difficult as this is to say, I must be truthful - we derive benefit from our captivity to fear! Pathetic, but true. "Benefits" such as controlling the behavior of those around us. Or absolving oneself of personal responsibility. Or eliciting sympathy from others. Playing victim and expecting our "due compensation".
God wants to give us the authentic benefits of wholeness and not these cheap imitations. And, while He could heal us instantaneously and without any effort on our part, He usually requires that we play a role in the healing. (See John 5:5,6). Because He uses our participation to develop the spiritual muscle we need to hold the ground we will regain. There will always be a battle, this side of Glory. And weak, fearful soldiers will be repeatedly defeated. Only those who have become strong in the Lord will survive victorious.
4. Dig out the root of the fear. This is where the hard works happens. While even unbelievers can achieve a measure of success over panic attacks through controlling and redirecting thought patterns, sustainable victory is only possible by uncovering and removing the root of fear. That is only done with the Sword of the Spirit...the Word of God.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,And lead me in the everlasting way. Psalm 139:23,24
Look carefully and see the connection between "hurtful way" and "anxious thoughts". Here, God clearly gives us the diagnosis and prescription - when we are plagued by anxiety, there is a root down under that needs the Spirit of God to uncover. "Hurtful way" refers to "idolatry" and is the opposite of "everlasting way", the way of God, which is timeless and eternal and right.
I believe the psalmist is explaining to us that the root of anxiety and panic - usually well covered up and only discernible by the Holy Spirit - is something which we have placed above God's rightful place, which is idolatry. 2 Corinthians 10:5 sheds more light on this. This verse tell us that every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God needs to be destroyed because these thoughts open us up to the occupation of the Enemy in our souls. When we value something above God - be it something material or a relationship or our own public image - we actually allow the Enemy to build a fortress (2 Corinthians 10:4) in our souls, set up camp, and influence our behavior.
Do not freak out - I am not suggesting that Christians can be possessed by the devil!!!!!!!!!
But I am conveying the Truth of His Word to you - and we can be (and are) most surely influenced by him! Just take a look around you...and then apply Psalm 139 to your own heart and look within you.
The stronghold of fear (which manifests itself as panic attacks and the like) involves an idol. And an idol is anything that becomes our chief focus, directs our behavior, exalts itself above the knowledge of God.
And the only way to get rid of the fear is to destroy the stronghold by demolishing the idol.
5. Now, to the demolition process. Once God by His Spirit has revealed to us the idol(s) , we have a choice. We can deny the truth and continue to live in fear. Plenty of people do that. Plenty of people choose the comfort of familiarity and its "benefits" over the joy and freedom that is possible.
If you, however, decide to choose the light instead of the darkness, here is what you can do :
a. Confess your sin. Agree with God that you have allowed the Enemy to occupy your soul through your idolatry. Name your idol, whatever it is. Speak aloud the desire to repent of this and to cast off the stronghold of fear. Admit that you even feel fear to do this! He already knows; you just need to hear yourself say it.
b. In faith, bow your heart to the One True God. Read aloud verses that proclaim His position such as Nehemiah 9:, 1 Chronicles 29:11, Psalm 95:3-5. Repeat and repeat and repeat (It is actually a good idea to make this a daily practice, that of acknowledging Who God Is!)
c. Believe in His goodness towards you. Isaiah 42:3 assures us of His gentle grace towards His frail people - A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice. Rehearse the truths of passages such as Psalm 31:19 and Psalm 116:1-9. One woman shared so beautifully with me that "Jesus knows our frailties but He loves us too much to leave us in them". Amen!!
d. The Word of God destroys the fortresses of the Enemy and it is the building block for a life unshakeable by fear - Matthew 7:24-27. And 1 Thessalonians 2:13.
6. This last point is major. Critical. Huge. I urge you not to overlook it. Often, we think that the opposite of fear is courage. Or faith. While those are great attributes to have, that is not what Scripture teaches us is the antidote to fear. Read carefully what God says to us in 1 John 4:16-21
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected (completed/matured) with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected(completed/matured) in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
I have heard it said that we need to know the love of Christ for us, in order to be freed from fear. I do not disagree at all. The Apostle Paul expresses this truth in Ephesians 3, where he prays for us to intimately know and experience the height and depth and breadth and length of Christ's love. Indeed, we need that indelibly imprinted on our souls.
But that is not all that is needed to free us from the stronghold of fear, to give us the freedom to live confidently and joyfully. This passage so very clearly outlines what else is needed.
Not only do we need to know God's love for us, we need also to love God and our brother!
The failure to do so, dear sisters, is what puts us in the place of idolatry. This is the sin that causes us to value something more than we do God. Ultimately, it is the sin of pride, of self-exaltation, that conceives, gives birth to, and nourishes the root of idolatry. Instinctively, we know this. (Even non believers have a God-given conscience that whispers this to them but we believers are especially aware of our failure, deep in our souls). And this knowledge leads us to condemn ourselves and lose our confidence (re-read the passage from I John to see this clearly). Not just the failure to love God but also the manifestation of this failure in our lack of love for others is what causes us to respond in all sorts of emotionally handicapping ways, including panic attacks. The presence of love (not just God's love towards us but this passage is particularly dealing with our love towards God and others) gives confidence. But the lack of love (towards God and therefore others) is what brings fear. Fear of God's judgment. Which breeds the desire to escape. We saw this first demonstrated in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve and we see it today in lives all around us. We just didn't know what caused it. And now we do. A failure to love leads to a desire to flee. Unreasonable fear.
Practically, how do we deal with this? Can we ever expect to live a life of perfect love?
Perfection isn't needed. What the word translated as "perfected" means is actually mature. That is a life that is obedient. Not perfect but mature. Walking in the Spirit instead of the flesh.
How do we do that?
Regular and consistent confession of sin. Let the Holy Spirit reveal where we have not walked in love and then confess it. He is faithful to forgive us of that as well as to cleanse us of all else that we are not even aware of. (I John 1:9,10). Without confession and repentance, we cannot walk in the Spirit And apart from His Spirit, we cannot love Him or others. And that leaves us open to all sorts of failures and strongholds and snares.
But by His Spirit...oh, by His Spirit, there is peace. Joy. Love. No fear!
Even as I type this, I am overcome by a feeling of might by His power. I cannot sit by while my sisters are paralyzed by the deceit of the Enemy. We do not have to be controlled by fear! And we do not have to depend on hours upon hours of expensive therapy or mind-numbing medication to gain freedom. What we need is for the Light that shone out of darkenss to shine in our hearts...to give us the light of the knowledge of the of the glory of God and to know that we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves (2 Corinthians 4:6, 7) And what we need to do is to love others with God's agape love.
Do not settle for a life controlled by fear. Do not use your anxiety as a tool of manipulation. Do not let the Enemy remain in a position of influence in your life. Be willing to repent of idols and begin to walk in love.